John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Asus T100 Chi review

I’ve had an Asus T100TA for a little over 6 months now. I love it. The battery life is excellent, speed is good enough, it’s light, powers on quickly and is completely silent. It’s a constant companion on my lap and is comfortable there. That said all has not been perfect. I bought a refurb’d model and from the start the space bar has been problematic. The connector between the keyboard and tablet has gotten worse and worse over time. This is a common theme. I had issues with the Dell Venue 10, Acer switch 10 amongst others.

To help clarify the previous generation was a T100TA, this one is the T100 Chi, and the recently announced model is the T100HA. The names are so similar even I confuse them. I will mention all three throughout the post (for comparison purposes).

So I started to look for a replacement. There aren’t a lot that I haven’t already played with and had issues with. Couple that with the fact that I had to give up on my Asus Vivotab Note 8 after constant reliability issues with the pen and I started looking. If I could find one tablet that would allow me to take digital notes (with a pen) as well as be my main laptop that would be a big win. The Surface 3 is an enticing device with a stellar pen, good performance and great battery life. But I have a REALLY hard time swallowing the price. Add to that it doesn’t have HDMI (without buying a $50 converter) doesn’t include a keyboard or pen at an already elevated price, and I hate the kickstand. How is that sharp edge EVER going to be comfortable on my lap? Am I the only one that uses a laptop on, oh I don’t know, MY LAP?


So onto the T100CHI. It is a nice improvement in specs over it’s predecessor, mostly incremental. Build quality wise it’s a nice step up, well sort of (more to come on that topic). It feels much more solid with aluminium on the tablet itself. The biggest change is they have moved the connection from the keyboard and tablet to bluetooth and used magnets to hold the two together, no more mechanical latch or release button. Just grab and yank. Oddly the newer T100HA has gone back to a mechanical connection? Can you say WAFFLE.

It’s amazing how a company can be both brilliant and daft at the same time. Poor follow through on an idea. Here’s what I mean. Given the keyboard is bluetooth it has to be charged. There is no direct connect between the keyboard and tablet even when docked (which could have been easily done). So you need to manually charge the keyboard from the tablet. Asus only provide one cable/charger to charge both the keyboard and tablet? Duh. I tried taking a USB OTG cable from the USB 3 port (more about this in a bit) and wrapping it around to the keyboard and it works so Asus could have easily provided a cable to do that, but they didn’t. They were at least bright enough to insure you can use the keyboard even while it’s being charged. Yay. And the micro USB ports for the tablet and keyboard are right on top of each other so you better make sure you get the right one or next day you will wake up to a well charged keyboard and low or dead tablet (yes I did it once). I bought a micro USB to micro USB cable off of Amazon and sure enough it works perfectly to charge the keyboard from the tablet. Again no idea what Asus didn’t include one.

Asus brilliantly included both a micro USB 2 and micro USB 3 port on the tablet. What this means is you can have the tablet connected to a USB device (like a keyboard/mouse) a monitor and be charging at the same time. But here is the oops side, Asus do not include a USB 2 or 3 OTG cable so out of the box the tablet cannot connect to ANYTHING USB. Now I knew this so bought a USB 3 OTG cable (and had a USB 2 OTG). This seems like a silly over sight. And with a USB 3 port it means Asus could have used this as a charger (which would have been faster) but this is a tease in that the USB 3 port is ONLY a OTG port. A crying shame. And while the USB 3 port is faster than the USB 2 it seems to be severely reduced in speed. I took a USB flash drive that measures 124MB/s on another machine and it only got 50MB/s on this tablet. This same drive would be around 20MB/s on USB 2. (My older T100 got 127MB/s). I tried more than one USB 3 OTG cables and never got any better than that. Not sure why this is, but this is a pretty big bottle neck for what USB 3 ought to be capable of. And the aluminum near the connectors seems like it will be easily scratched/damaged while trying to get the fidgety USB 2/3 ports plugged into. On the positive side Asus use a standard 2A micro USB charger so your not tied to a proprietary charger.

The micro SD slot also seems to be limited in speed. Connected to the USB 3 port and a USB reader my 48MB/s gets 44MB/s while plugged into the micro SD slot the card only get 24MB/s.

As mentioned above the tablet itself is much better built than the older T100, more solid with aluminum rather than plastic. But the design team that did the keyboard must not have got the memo because they went the opposite direction. It is not even as rigid as the old T100s keyboard. Pick the tablet up by the corner of the keyboard and it groans and creaks like your going to break it. And it’s a act of blind faith that it’s not going to break and both your tablet and keyboard end up on the floor (not that it has happened). On the lap the keyboard flexes noticeably but is solid enough on a hard surface. The juxtaposition in quality level and feel between the keyboard and tablet are really quite pronounced.

The tablet can be put on the keyboard forwards and backwards allowing a variety of different positions. And I love the infinitely selectable angles you can put the tablet at to minimize glare/reflection. Another issue with the silly kickstand on the Surface.

The keyboard itself powers on somewhat slowly giving a nice blinking blue light while it connects. Patience is rewarded when it starts working. Asus have not been too aggressive in power management on the keyboard and it doesn’t go to sleep quickly which given how slow it is to connect is welcome. The keyboard itself is fine, cramped for big hands, but the keys for the most part are in the right places and gives reasonable feedback. I hate trackpads but this one is not too bad. The hinge is quite stiff and opening it can be a little challenging. Asus has included an app to tell you the power level of the keyboard along with a notification as it gets close to low. A nice touch. Unfortunately there is no back lighting on the keyboard. The keyboard like some bluetooth keyboards does suffer from random repeating keys. Battery life on the dock is quite good. After my first week it still shows 85%. With nothing in the dock it is cool, quiet and reasonably light.

The tablet does not have a GPS so can not be used as a navigation device. It also does not have flash so the cameras can not be used in the dark. Both are not uncommon in tablets and the previous T100s also did not have either.

I used the tablet for about 4.5 hours for general use (surfing and the like) and the battery went down to 58% so an approximate battery life of just under 8 hours. It charged from 58% to 72% in an hour for an approximate charge time of 7.1 hours. On standby the left the tablet for 5 hours and it only went down 5% which would translate into a standby life of 100 hours. The active battery life “seems” worse than the previous T100 but still pretty good. If your going to be away from your tablet for a while the best choice is to put the tablet into Airplane mode. That cuts off Microsofts silly connected standby and extends the battery life MASSIVELY. After 18 hours it was down a mere 5%. It’s a shame Microsoft have not used this as a way or preserving battery when the device is not used for a while.

Oddly Microsoft do not enable hibernate by default This post shows how to add hibernate to the start menu power options and this post shows how to add hibernate after a period of time. But realize that waking up from hibernate is not an instant thing, think 30-40 seconds so you will not want to enter hibernate too quickly. Also hibernate chews up space on your SSD equal to the size of your memory (so 2GB on the T100 Chi). Waking up from hibernate requires a push and hold for a couple seconds of the power key. Oddly there is no flashing light to indicate the tablet is in hibernate. It will not wake from hibernate by pressing a key on the keyboard.

The other item I toyed with for saving battery was using a scheduled command to put the WIFI card to sleep at a time of day when it is often not used (such as when your at work) using commands
netsh interface set interface name=”Wi-Fi” admin=enabled
netsh interface set interface name=”Wi-Fi” admin=disabled

With a combination of the above tweaks you can easily get a couple days out of the battery.

The 64G drive speed clocks in at 32MB/s write and 78.5 read which is a nice improvement from 25/40 on the old T100.

The display resolution is 1900×1200 which is a HUGE improvement compared to the anemic 1366×768 on the previous T100. Why Microsoft still grant logo certification for a device that even in Win 8 days is well below MS’s min standards is beyond me. And oddly the even newer T100HA has gone back to 1280×800. I just don’t get it.

Processor wise it goes from a Z3740 at 1.33GHZ to a Z3725 at 1.46GHZ so a teeny tiny boost.

Ram is 2G which is fine for this category of device, and is the max this processor can support anyway. The newer T100HA now uses the Cherry Trail (vs Baytrail this one uses) which is faster and supports up to 4G of Ram.

Media wise Kodi runs well on it, even streaming over the WIFI.

And now onto the pen. It was one of the reasons I decided to choose the T100 Chi over the newer T100HA. Well first up Asus seems to have obsoleted the pen they had for this device which turns out to be Asus part number Asus 90NB07G0-P000I0, well in Canada at least. The US web site still seems to have it up but I don’t see a way to buy it. I mistakenly followed a thread on Transformer Forums and bought what I though was the pen from Asus Canada, it turned out it was not and does not work on the T100 Chi. (DO NOT BUY TAICHI Stylus Pen 04190-00030000 it does not work with the T100 Chi). And ASUS happily refunded my money minus a shipping charge and restocking charge :(. The correct Asus part number appears to be Asus 90NB07G0-P000I0 (appears because I wasn’t able to buy one and confirm it). In my mind this is VERY poor customer and product support from Asus.

Let’s start with some basics. There are a number of makers of the digitizers in the tablets that work with the stylus, and they are not compatible. This means sometimes a pen is unique to a tablet. or it can be difficult to figure out what pen works with what tablet (outside of the one from the manufacturer, if you can get it from them). The players in this space are Wacom (in my mind the pioneers in this space). My Samsung Note 8 and Asus Vivotab Note 8 both use passive Wacom pens. (Passive meaning there is no battery in the pen). The surface 2 used a Wacom with a battery in it to power the buttons.

Synaptics which I believe are used in tablets like the Dell Venue 8 as well as this T100 Chi (Synaptics 7508).

N-Trig which are used in the new surface 3 and 4.

I had a Dell active pen from my Venue 10 Pro but that one doesn’t work. Nor does the pen from my Asus Vivotab note. Both were to be expected (as not working).

In doing reading I had hints that the Dell pen from the Venue 8 (Dell 750-AAGN) as well as the Acer DNF-01561 were both reported as working. So I bought the Acer. It was referred to as only Acer Aspire Active Stylus.
The pen feels quite good in the hand albeit a little heavy. Has a nice pocket clip but no cap. The pen works way better than I expected and can easily be used to do hand writing. The pen can not be used without the battery so if it dies in the middle of use your dead in the water. You won’t get any warning about the battery getting low before it flat out dies and no way to tell the state of the battery. You may want to carry a spare if it’s important that your pen works. The pen tip does not seem to be replaceable. The buttons are easy to press and in a bit of an awkward place. The palm detection is a little hokey. Before it sees the pen it totally does not do palm rejection at all. As you get close it slips into palm rejection mode allowing you to start writing. It seems to stay in this mode until it detects a finger touch (for example to slide the screen up). Hand writing is good, albeit a bit jittery. There can be a slight delay in when it starts detecting the writing. It is not perfect, and not as good as the Wacom on the Asus Vivotab Note 8. Whether it is good enough is up to you to decide/figure out.

In doing some reading I found out lots of people are complaining about the palm rejection in Windows 10. It seems to be different/worse than in Windows 8. My testing was on Windows 10.

So all in all I like the T100 Chi. The pen which I took a chance on works fine (although I still prefer the passive Wacom). At almost 1/2 the price of the Surface it is a good device. I am sure the Surface is a better device but is it 100% better? A surface would cost $639 for similar specs + $150 for the keyboard so $789 Vs a list of $549, but I got the T100 Chi on sale for $419.


November 24, 2015 - Posted by | Windows tablets

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